Feb 112016
 

This morning’s amusement was Amol Rajan, editor of the British Paper, Independent, stating that his paper was going to refer to Mumbai as Bombay, to prevent “Hindu Nationalists” from getting their way

“The whole point of Bombay is of an open, cosmopolitan port city, the gateway of India that’s open to the world. If you call it what Hindu nationalists want you to call it, you essentially do their work for them.”

Obviously, it caused a storm (also known as an outrage) in the twitter teacup.

The Independent, is owned by the Russian Oligarch Alexander Lebedev, and has been struggling for mindspace and audiences, since it launched in 1986.

Given that they are reacting to an even that took place over 2 decades ago – Bombay officially became Mumbai in 1995, and a few generations of Indians (at least 3 by my reckoning) have grown up knowing Bombay as Mumbai, one can’t but help wonder about the timing of this. I can understand, if they took this stand in 1995. But, 2016, is late reaction even by print standards.

But, given that one believes in the Freedom of Expression, and the right of people to behave in inexplicable ways, i have some suggestions for Mr.Rajan, in terms of nomenclature

  • Refer to the USA as The Colonies or The New World– that should be the simplest. The first lot of colonies to go independent. Post that there was the genocide on the native Americans, mass colonisation and violation of human rights and the rest. modern history (post world war) has 2 nuclear bombings, the devastation of south east Asia, the cock up in the middle east, the screw up in South America. And, these are just things that i can rattle off without too much research. there are a lot more, and the Brits should stand up for human rights and freedoms by reverting to the British name for America. Also it will cock a snook at Mr.Trump #justsaying
  • Caledonia – was the ancient name for Scotland. And, since we live in a post colonial world, it is time that we reverted to ancient names, and not allow the colonial apologists to win :) It will also, confuse the Scottish National Party.
  • Eire – well Northern Eire, sounds a lot nicer than Northern Ireland
  • Chai – well, chai is much nicer than Tea. Besides, Tea is a term associated with bonded labour, forced plantations, and environmental degeneration. Time to change that too.
  • Arabia – dudes, the ‘Middle East’ is to the west for most of the world’s population. Stop using geographically inaccurate terms, and those that  are intrinsically wrong. Revert to Arabia, or the Arabian peninsula.
  • Bedouins – before Saudi Arabia came to be, and it’s citizens were called Saudi Arabians, they were the Bedu’s – tribes that ruled the Arabian peninsula. They seemed a lot nicer than modern Saudi Arabia. Atleast they didn’t export Wahabism and Salafism, and set the world on fire. Can we please revert to that too.

I could go on and on, but you get the drift. Besides, in a start up mode, i cannot afford the time to be too snarky about the silliness of the world.

Sufficient to say, Mumbai is neither intolerant, nor is it non inclusive, and it is cosmopolitan – except not in a western, elitist definition of cosmopolitan. It just is a name for the city – an ancient name based on an ancient goddess who is the guardian of the place.

Before i sign off, a cynical theory. Why is a British newspaper taking a stand on Indian city names. The answer is quite simple. India is a major source of web traffic. The Guardian has 7.5% of it’s total web audience from India, and this does not include the Indian diaspora (so if you were wondering, why the Guardian carries so much content on India, you have your answer). And, the best way to attract audiences, is to cause a controversy in a twitter tea cup. Outrage drives pageviews (but, those don’t last).

 

guardian

(Guardian, source Alexa)

Similarly, the Independent has a sizable chunk of it’s audience coming in from India

independent(The Independent : Source Alexa)

If i were trying to increase traffic numbers, i hopefully will desist doing something this inane, and try and improve the quality of content :) And, to the team at independent, if you want to get a better insight into targeting Indian audiences, call me :)

 

Feb 092016
 

…. and there is a part of me that is terrified, and there is a part of me that is terribly excited. I missed this sensation for the time i worked in corporate land. This sensation of being completely attuned to my universe and being alive.

Friday was my last day at my last employer. I had put in my papers towards the end of the last year. I had a great, great time in Zee. Fabulous boss and fabulous teams, and  quite a large number of very nice people – people who make it a great workplace. And, I had the opportunity to work and interact with one of the greatest media visionaries in India, and that itself was a great experience and a great education.

Working in a corporate structure is like climbing the Himalayas with a safety net. Working for yourself is like jumping off the Himalayas without one (and then climbing up again, and then jumping off again).. Ha ha , i am doing the latter again, I must be nuts :)

So what am I going to do ? Right now – i am taking a month off to just get my priorities straight. And, at the core of the priority list is me and what i want to do. Am having lots of conversations on what all can be done – and there is a lot I can do, news, entertainment, education, across forms, formats and media. But, it is humanly impossible to do it all. The screw up is that all of it is terribly exciting, but there are only 24 hours in a day :( So, i am sitting and pruning the list. |No, you cannot go to central Uttar Pradesh and create a web series … no. no. no, says my rational business mind.  Not yet, agrees my creative mind, and things go from the junk to the maybe one day list :)

I am thinking maybe 2 out of the list. And, even that means a lot of time commitment. As, i get older, i have begun guarding my non work time. I get so little of it, that it is important.

Finally, as i go back into figuring a start up ecosystem – some thoughts based on my last experience (as much for me, as anyone finds it interesting).

  1. Ideas are the easiest things in the world. Everyone knows how to fix the world, intellectually. Fixing the world, however, is about implementation. And, implementation is about roadmaps – you need to know what you are fixing, why you are fixing it, how will you fix it, and who will fix it. How much will the fixing cost, and how do you make money out of this. You, at the very least, need to have a pragmatic fix on this. And this goes beyond spreadsheets and presentations. oh, and it also goes beyond coffee shop conversations.
  2. While it is important to meet people and discuss your idea, do not meet so many people that you get confused about what you are doing. Refer to point one – everyone has a killer idea, the devil is in the implementation. Spend time meeting people who have implemented anything.
  3. Have a time plan — what are you going to do with your time and how. It is important to be disciplined. This is not an extended break, it is work. Work for yourself You only have two assets now – your intellect and 24 hours each day. The former needs to be sharpened and sharp focused so as not to wander. The latter needs to be used well. else the tendency to fritter both is huge. Use a small mantra – there is no tomorrow, only today. Stuff needs to be done today.
  4. While you are talking to random people in this journey, remember to talk to people who have undertaken the journey, successfully and otherwise. Success does not mean unicorn funding alone #justsaying.
  5. Your personal space is just as important as when you are working for someone else. Don’t let work crowd out your personal time so much that you begin resenting work.
  6. Be honest – there is no substitute for direct, and sometimes brutal, honesty. No point committing to stuff you don’t believe in, or don’t think can work. But, at the same time don’t burn bridges.
  7. Be clear – do you want to be a vendor or do you want to be an entrepreneur – in the former, the only risk is 90 days credit will become 120 days. The latter can be trying to do an obstacle race in a minefield.
  8. Don’t ignore paperwork — Government, who is God, loves paperwork. As does everyone in each of the Government departments. If you think you have done this paperwork before, you possibly have – except it was for another Government department, not this one. Just because the Government is talking about #StartupIndia doesn’t mean the paperwork will go away.  Paperwork is in our dna … even the private sector has it. Hire an accountant if needed. Far more important initially than getting that fancy alienware laptop you are eyeing :)
  9. Meet the audience regularly. Figure if they really want what you are plugging – no point discovering there is no market for it.
  10. Have fun – if you are not having fun, you are doing this wrong, and go get a job. Being in a start up is not like being burnt at the stake – it is loads of fun, joy and excitement. there is a tremendous sense of achievement If you are miserable, maybe you should be doing something else.

Does this mean, being entrepreneurial is only a function of starting up.  Not really, you can find a company that is entrepreneurial and join that. There is no one path – all are equally valid. Just don’t be miserably unhappy at whatever it is that you are doing.  There is more to life than that (and, no i wan’t miserably unhappy – i had just become placidly smug. and, i didn’t like myself quite as much as i did before ) 😀

 

boats-at-the-ghats-4---Benaras-(1-of-1)

(shot a couple of years ago (but processed last year) — the boatman on the Ganga, Benaras)

 

Jan 262016
 

The Purna Swaraj Declaration, made on the 26th of January 1930, by the Indian National Congress, was a move away from asking for Dominion Status and asking for Complete Independence, as a Republic of equals (us) who will determine their own path and destiny. the full text of the declaration

“We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them, the people have a further right to alter it or to abolish it. The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence.

“India has been ruined economically. The revenue derived from our people is out of all proportion to our income. Our average income is seven pice, less than two pence, per day, and of the heavy taxes we pay, twenty per cent are raised from the land revenue derived from the peasantry and three per cent from the salt tax, which falls most heavily on the poor.

“Village industries, such as hand-spinning, have been destroyed, leaving the peasantry idle for at least four months in the year, and dulling their intellect for want of handicrafts, and nothing has been substituted, as in other countries, for the crafts thus destroyed.

“Customs and currency have been so manipulated as to heap further burdens on the peasantry. The British manufactured goods constitute the bulk of our imports. Customs duties betray clear partiality for British manufactures, and revenue from them is used not to lessen the burden on the masses, but for sustaining a highly extravagant administration. Still more arbitrary has been the manipulation of the exchange ratio which has resulted in millions being drained away from the country.

“Politically, India’s status has never been so reduced, as under the British regime. No reforms have given real political power to the people. The tallest of us have to bend before foreign authority. The rights of free expression of opinion and free association have been denied to us, and many of our countrymen are compelled to live in exile abroad and they cannot return to their homes. All administrative talent is killed, and the masses have to be satisfied with petty village offices and clerkships. “Culturally, the system of education has torn us from our moorings, our training has made us hug the very chains that bind us.

“Spiritually, compulsory disarmament has made us unmanly, and the presence of an alien army of occupation, employed with deadly effect to crush in us the spirit of resistance, has made us think that we cannot look after ourselves or put up a defence against foreign aggression, or defend our homes and families from the attacks of thieves, robbers, and miscreants.

“We hold it to be a crime against man and God to submit any longer to a rule that has caused this fourfold disaster to our country. We recognize, however, that the most effective way of gaining our freedom is not through violence. We will prepare ourselves, by withdrawing, so far as we can, all voluntary association from the British Government, and will prepare for civil disobedience including non-payment of taxes. We are convinced that if we can but withdraw our voluntary help, stop payment of taxes without doing violence, even under provocation, the end of this inhuman rule is assured. We, therefore, hereby solemnly resolve to carry out the Congress instructions issued from time to time for the purpose of establishing Purna Swaraj.

There were those in the liberal faction of the Indian National Congress who had an issue with the concept of civil disobedience. Dr.Ambedkar in particular. In the Nagpur session, a few months later,  on August 8th he made a speech at the Depressed Classes Congress:

he endorsed Dominion status, and criticized Gandhi’s Salt March and civil disobedience movement as inopportune; but he also criticized British colonial misgovernment, with its famines and immiseration. He argued that the “safety of the Depressed Classes” hinged on their “being independent of the Government and the Congress” both: “We must shape our course ourselves and by ourselves.” His conclusion emphasized self-help: “Political power cannot be a panacea for the ills of the Depressed Classes. Their salvation lies in their social elevation. They must cleanse their evil habits. They must improve their bad ways of living…. They must be educated…. There is a great necessity to disturb their pathetic contentment and to instil into them that divine discontent which is the spring of all elevation.”

Gandhi, however, was of the view that non violence and civil disobedience were the way forward.

“The Congress cannot stay its hands after having passed the independence resolution, “It was no bluff, no showy nothing. It was deliberate definite change in the Congress mentality. It is then as much up to the critics as to me, to devise ways and means of achieving independence.”

On those who had issues with the non violent part of the resolution, Gandhi had this to say

There is undoubtedly a party of violence in the country. It is as patriotic as the best among us. What is more, it has much sacrifice to its credit. In daring it is not to be surpassed by any of us. It is easy enough to fling unkind adjectives at its members, but it will not carry conviction with them. I am not referring to the frothy eloquence that passes muster for patriotism. I have in mind that secret, silent, persevering band of young men and women who want to see their country free at any cost. But whilst I admire and adore their patriotism, I have no faith in their method. I am convinced that their methods have cost the country much more than they know or care to admit. But they will listen to no argument, however reasonable it may be, unless they are convinced that there is a programme before the country which requires at least as much sacrifice as the tallest among them is prepared to make. They will not be allured by our speeches, resolutions or even conferences. Action alone has any appeal for them. This appeal can only form non-violent action which is no other than civil resistance. In my opinion, it and it alone can save the country from impending lawlessness and secret crime. That even civil resistance may fail and may also hasten the lawlessness is no doubt a possibility. But if it fails in its purpose, it will not be civil resistance that will have failed. It will fail, if it does, for want of faith and consequent incapacity in the civil resisters.

“We must cease to dread violence, if we will have the country to be free. Can we not see that we are tightly pressed in the coil of violence? The peace we seem to prize is a mere makeshift, and it is bought with the blood of the starving millions. If the critics could only realize the torture of their slow and lingering death brought about by forced starvation, they would risk anarchy and worse in order to end that agony. The agony will not end till the existing rule of spoliation has ended. It is a sin, with that knowledge, to sit supine, and for fear of imaginary anarchy or worse, to stop action that may prevent anarchy, and is bound, if successful, to end the heartless spoliation of a people who have deserved a better fate.”

On the New Year’s Eve 1930 (31st December 1929) Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the tricolour at Lahore, and declared that 26th Jan 1930 would mark the beginning of Purna Swaraj.

It is a fascinating era in Indian history. India was lucky to be led by moral and intellectual giants – who debated vigrously with each other, at the same time as working for a common goal – a strong, independent India, where all of us are equal.

ashoka pillar

Jan 012016
 

Bond’s latest outing, seems tired, jaded and repetitive. It has jumps in (film) logic, leaps of sheer nonsense, and an overwhelming desire to create a Grand Unified Theory of people who hate Bond, and would try and destroy the universe to try and get to him.

Spectre-2015-James-Bond-Images-HD-Wallpaper-amkrn-Free

I quite liked Casino Royale. A fantastic relaunch of the Bond Franchise. I thought that the Quantum of Solace should have been 3 scenes that preceded Skyfall, which was totally awesome. I am not quite what Spectre was all about.

We have all heard of daddy and mommy complexes. If Skyfall had Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) in competition with James Bond for Mommy’s (M played by Judi Dench’s) affections, Spectre introduces us to the arch Bond Villain – Blofeld (Christoph Walken) who was in competition with James Bond for the father’s affection (thankfully the father in question is Blofeld’s biological father, not the new M (Ralph Fiennes ).

All the conflict and violence that we have seen in the Bond Franchise since the relaunch of the franchise, is caused by daddy issues. The soapificaiton of Bond, so as to speak.

The film could still work, despite this kind of convoluted back stories and desire for an inter-connected universe and story line, if they had focused on the script on this. That is just all over the place. More than that, you get the campiness of the old Roger Moore Bond films, without any of it’s cheesiness. When James Bond (Roger Moore) stole a plane or a car – there was an underlying sense of humour to it. And, we as the audience, were in on the joke. Here, the same events are constructed with the utmost seriousness.

Daniel Craig is efficient as 007. Monica Belucci, about whom so much was written about in the context of her being cast as a ‘Bond girl’ is – how does one put this nicely – a one night stand. Blofeld is so calm, that he appears to be sleepwalking through his role. And, Léa Seydoux who plays the Bond ‘romantic’ interest, is like one of those women in the old westerns – in need of constant rescuing.  And M needs to grow a spine. Ralph Fiennes seems to have none of the toughness that would be required to handle a unit of double 00’s, he doesn’t even look capable enough to handle Miss Moneypenny, the way he is currently scripted and played.

Is the film worth watching – definitely. There are breath taking moments there. The opening sequence, for example. The fight sequence on the train. The end sequence. But, the problem is with a script that sags between the sequences. Maybe Skyfall spolit Bond for me. Maybe, i expect that kind of excellence each time.

Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig (a co-producer of the film) and the remaining creative talent, will need to put their minds together if they want to see the franchise survive. This, may have worked 30 years ago – but, you need slightly more sophisticated story telling today.

 

(IN 2016, i plan to watch atleast 100 films. Last year i managed 4. This is the first to kick of the year).

Dec 312015
 
As you get older, one of the things that you realise is that life is measured less in terms of the tangibles – tickets sold, people enticed, targets met, audiences garnered – and more in terms of the intangibles – friendship, love, laughter, family.
Somehow, when we are younger, we tend to value the latter less. That sense of all of these being there always, is palpable. While one knows, intellectually,  that no one is immortal, the propensity to believe that death is something that happens to others, is huge.
The death of a parent, makes you grow up.
it is like a safety net has been taken away, and you have no one to catch you when you fall.
I haven’t had time to grieve … i haven’t even cried yet. Part of me is yet to accept he is gone.And, the other part of me is trying to fit (unsuccessfully) into his shoes to try and do what all he did, for the family. I have more conversations with him today, than in the last two years he was around. Those were more of the nature
him: “how was work”
me: “fine. What did you do today” … He : “watched TV. slept”.
Now i have conversations. Detailed conversations, in my head. And, as Dumbledore points out in one of the Harry Potter books, just because it happened in your head, doesn’t mean it is not real.
I am hoping the next year will be better. i pray for peace. closure. and maybe even some tears. I feel guilty for not not being able to cry. It is not that i loved him less – i adored him. I just can’t cry. It is like all those tears are frozen deep within me – and one of these days, i am going to end up crying a river.
Today, is the 7th month. and, the end of a long year.  I miss him.
DSC_1929